By Rachel Howard
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of Elite Traveler.
As the ancient Greek geographer Strabo pointed out, “Mykonos has it all.” Strabo probably wasn’t referring to personal shoppers and beauty salons, high-end jewelers and sushi bars, superyachts and 24-hour clubs. But it is indeed impossible to be bored or jaded on this high-energy island, the free spirit of the Cyclades. Once little more than a stopover en route to the majestic ruins of Delos, a half-hour boat ride away, Mykonos now attracts over two million tourists every year. The tiny airport is finally getting a major upgrade in 2018,with a bigger runway and better terminal. Originally a retreat for the gay and bohemian jet-set, today the island is the playground of supermodels, athletes, fashion designers and A-listers who like to see and be seen. Every summer, Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2 and shoe designer Brian Atwood throw bacchanals featuring togas, fire jugglers, and male models in golden speedos. Although there are still a handful of wild beaches hidden between rocky headlands, on Mykonos, the maxim seems to be, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Set back from Fokos, one of the last bare beaches on Mykonos, this laid-back family-run taverna takes classic Greek dishes up several notches. Mykonian louza (cured pork) is served with arugula and figs, red peppers are stuffed with local goat cheese, and the pork chops are grilled to perfection. Look out for owner Marissa’s handmade ceramics, which make pretty souvenirs.
Run with unassuming grace by the same family since the 1970s, Katrin is such a classic that it doesn’t even need a website (let alone a Facebook page). Tucked in the tangle of back alleys in the island’s main town, Chora, the restaurant serves up sublime sea bass carpaccio, chateaubriand and tarte tatin on white linen beneath a flush of hot-pink bougainvillea.
Hidden on the rocky shoreline below the Anastasia Village hotel in Agia Anna, this seafood restaurant is the ultimate setting for a date. You almost have to walk the plank to get to your table, but the lobster spaghetti is out of this world.
WHERE TO STAY
Myrsini Beach House
On a sandy bay far from the madding crowds, this stunning estate feels like a private island. Perfect for families or undercover celebrities, the rental comprises three houses (sleeping 12–14 guests) set around a pool and a series of stone terraces strung with hammocks. Shady alcoves strewn with colorful textiles, and rough-hewn bathrooms with vintage tiles exude a bohemian vibe. The owner hails from an illustrious local family, so you will experience Mykonos as a privileged insider.
If you want to be in the heart of the action, stay here. In the upper echelons of Chora, the Belvedere Hotel is a scene in itself. Fabulous fashionistas strike a pose around the curvaceous pool, which morphs into a sexily lit bar after dark. Reserve well in advance for the ever-popular Matsuhisa Mykonos. Designed by David Rockwell, the sushi restaurant is defined by sculpted mahogany, white marble and incredible sea views.
Santa Marina Resort and Villa
A favorite among supermodels and superstars (such as Alessandra Ambrosio, Harrison Ford and Bella Hadid), this seaside resort commands a private peninsula overlooking Ornos bay. In addition to the only private beach on the island, assets include a top-notch spa and the justifiably fashionable Buddha Bar. Part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, this is still a family business, run by the uncompromising Christiana Papageorgiou, who completed a multimillion-dollar upgrade in 2017. The suite to book is the three-bedroom Villa Lapis Lazuli, which comes with a free-form infinity pool and dedicated butler.
Take Three/// Essential Mykonos Experiences
A boat trip to Deios
Fewer than 10 percent of visitors to Mykonos make the half-hour journey to Delos, an entire island of ancient ruins, and we think they are missing out. Excursion boats depart frequently from the old port of Mykonos, but those in the know charter Phoebus, an elegant sailboat restored and skippered by Zannis Koukas, a charismatic local sculptor. After you explore the spectacular antiquities, Koukas will show you the secret beaches of Rinia, a desert island inhabited only by shepherds and farmers.
Sundowners at Caprice in Little Venice
At dusk, the whole world seems to descend on the waterfront bars of Little Venice to watch the sun slip into the Aegean. Go early to score a perch at Caprice, one of the oldest bars on Mykonos, and order a round of watermelon daiquiris. Before you know it, you’ll be dancing on the bar.
Drag shows at Jackie O’ Beach Club
The gay scene is no longer a defining feature of Mykonos, but Super Paradise Beach is still awash in buff, bronzed beefcakes. The nightly drag shows at the beach’s glamorous Jackie O’ bar attract a mixed crowd that unfailingly ends up on the dance floor.
Champagne showers, $5,000-a-day cabanas, shisha and sushi bars, and even live camels feature at Nammos, one of the world’s swankiest beach bars. Toned hostesses in teeny bikinis usher you to tightly packed Loro Piana sunbeds, and Rivas zip oligarchs from their superyachts to the waterfront restaurant. There’s even a resident paparazzo to upload snaps of celebrities such as Olivia Palermo, Mariah Carey and countless Kardashians onto the Nammos Instagram account.
Some things never go out of style—like this classic bar founded by the irrepressible impresario Babis Pasaoglou in 1987. The timeless design by Greek jeweler Minas, a sultry interpretation of vernacular architecture, has not changed since the day Astra opened. The twinkling stars on the ceiling still pulse in time to the music, even if the tunes have changed with the times.
On a rocky headland at the tip of Paraga beach, Scorpios (pictured) helped Mykonos regain its mojo since opening in 2015. All bamboo and rope daybeds, oversize cacti, and tattooed staff dressed like Berber nomads, Scorpios is a glamorous spin on hippie chic. Go for the trippy Sunset Rituals, where the world’s best DJs jam with locals on the clarinet and bagpipes. The healthy Mediterranean food is sensational, and the cocktails are strong.